CNN's heralded new prime time talking heads show—filling the slot most recently guest-hosted by (ouch) RIck Sanchez—debuts tonight, and we could only be talking about ParkerSpitzer. That would be Kathleen and Eliot to you. Most of the Nation audience needs little introduction to the former New York governor, but you may be a little shaky on Parker.
So, for the record, she is a longtime columnist on the right, most recently writing from South Carolina (until her recent move to New York), often appeared on Sunday morning shows, and has lately labeled herself a "rational conservative" or "centrist conservative." She is not, in any case, a Tea Party or Coulter wingnut and earned some measure of hate on the right and respect on the left in the autumn of 2008 for labeling Sarah Palin not ready for prime time. This no doubt helped her get a Pultizer Prize for commentary last year.
When I was editor at Editor & Publisher a few years back we talked by phone a couple of times and exchanged e-mails. She seemed like an exceedingly nice person. But she expressed disappointment when I wrote a very critical columns about her in May 2008, well before her anti-Palin piece and softening toward Obama, and I always wondered if my criticism, which drew wide attention, maybe had some small positive effect on her afterward.
Here's what I wrote in 2008. Perhaps she has grown in the two years since, though one has to wonder, given her "Elena Kagan Is Miles from Mainstream America" column last May.
Kathleen Parker's mid-May column followed hard on the heels of a Peggy Noonan piece in the Wall Street Journal. Noonan had opined: "Hillary Clinton is not Barack Obama's problem. America is Mr. Obama's problem." Noonan wondered if Obama had ever gotten "misty-eyed" over the Wright Brothers, D-Day, George Washington or Henry Ford. "[W]hat about Obama and America?" she asked rhetorically. "Who would have taught him to love it, and what did he learn was lovable, and what does he think about it all?" She concluded: "[N]o one is questioning his patriotism, they're questioning its content, its fullness."
Parker, on the other hand, borrowed the words of another to set forth her central premise. She opened her mid-May column by quoting 24-year-old Josh Fry of West Virginia who said he backed John McCain over Barack Obama in that state's primary: "His feelings aren't racist, he explained. He would just be more comfortable with 'someone who is a full-blooded American as president.'" Of course, West Virginia went strongly against Obama in both the primary and later in the general.
But Parker assured us that her own views had nothing to do with race:
Full-bloodedness is an old coin that's gaining currency in the new American realm. Meaning: Politics may no longer be so much about race and gender as about heritage, core values, and made-in-America. Just as we once and still have a cultural divide in this country, we now have a patriot divide. Who 'gets' America? And who doesn't?... It's about blood equity, heritage and commitment to hard-won American values. And roots.
Some run deeper than others and therein lies the truth of Josh Fry's political sense. In a country that is rapidly changing demographically—and where new neighbors may have arrived last year, not last century—there is a very real sense that once-upon-a-time America is getting lost in the dash to diversity. We love to boast that we are a nation of immigrants—and we are. But there's a different sense of America among those who trace their bloodlines back through generations of sacrifice.
Parker, of course, ignored the fact that Obama, in fact, is half-white, is related (god help us) to Dick Cheney, and can trace his family back as far as McCain in America—to George Washington, even. And speaking of "generations of sacrifice": Obama's grandfather fought in World War II.
Those fine small-town Americans may not know any of that—and Parker sure didn't remind them. "What they know," she related, "is that their forefathers fought and died for an America that has worked pretty well for more than 200 years. What they sense is that their heritage is being swept under the carpet while multiculturalism becomes the new national narrative. And they fear what else might get lost in the remodeling of America."
Even Hillary Clinton has "figured it out," Parker wrote. Her "own DNA is cobbled with many of the same values that rural and small-town Americans cling to. She understands viscerally what Obama has to study. That God, for instance, isn't something that comes and goes out of fashion."
After noting other true American values such as easy gun ownership, Parker concluded, "Full-blooded Americans get this. Those who hope to lead the nation better get it soon."